The ability to store a horse embryo may be of interest to horse owners wishing to preserve the genetics of a valuable animal for future use. It could also be a solution for endangered equid species.
University of Guelph researcher, Tracey Chenier and her colleagues, continue to benefit from the assistance of internationally renowned cryobiologist, Dr.Stanley Leibo, looking for effective ways to freeze embryos which could lead to worldwide commercial viability of embryo transfer in the horse. Currently, almost all embryo transfers are a costly process involving fresh transfer on the same day. Chenier explains, “The ability to freeze and store horse embryos not only would allow for a more convenient transfer time, but would also prove more cost effective.”
The challenge which is unique to horse embryos, is the formation of a glycoprotein-based capsule (which forms approximately seven days after ovulation) which surrounds the embryo and prevents the freezing chemical from entering the tissue. Chenier states, “We have confirmed that with 9 – 11 day old embryos, very little cryoprotectant can enter into the embryo and very little water can make it out. Water forms ice crystals when you freeze it and this can cause damage to the embryo.”
Chenier and Leibo will be collecting 40 more embryos to continue working on solving this dilemma.